Special Report

25 Messiest Highway Food Spills

Colman Andrews

Ever wonder how food gets to your local supermarket or your favorite fast-food place? How it ends up with the wholesalers who sell it to delis and food trucks and fancy restaurants and anyone else who feeds us?

The foods we eat come — whether as raw materials, precooked ingredients, or finished dishes — from every part of the country and around the world, and they have to travel to our neighborhoods from their places of production somehow.

Trains carry some of these foods, and certain luxury items, such as caviar or fresh fish from foreign seas, might get transported by air. But the workhorses of food distribution, in America and elsewhere, are trucks, serious trucks — tractor trailers, big rigs, semis, 18-wheelers, tank trucks.

Considering the millions of miles these vehicles cover cumulatively each year, it’s hardly surprising that mishaps happen. Big trucks are large and unwieldy, delicately balanced despite their bulk, and so are much more prone to tipping over than passenger cars or pickups. And when they flip, their trailers often break open, spilling their contents across the road.

Images of these accidents are often dramatic — with PCs, toilet seats, paint cans, spread all over the Interstate — but none are more compelling than those involving food. There’s just something about seeing a highway turned brown with liquid chocolate, white with milk, or orange with oranges that captures our imagination, amuses us, and maybe even makes us stop to think about the enormity and complexity of the system that puts food on our plates.

Click here to see the 25 messiest highway big-rig food spills.